Local News

Librarians throw book at overdue fines

Posted February 13, 2009 4:50 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— The Cumberland County library system will soon begin using a collection agency to get its overdue books back and related fines paid.

The move could wind up hurting the credit of absent-minded library patrons.

Library director Brian Manning said 37,000 of the system's books – about 6 percent of the total collection – are at least a month overdue.

Beginning March 1, the library will report people with books more than six weeks past due or with overdue fines of at least $25 to a collection agency, Manning said. That will trigger four months of warning letters and phone calls and will add a $10 processing fee to the outstanding fines, he said.

The collection agency, Unique Management Services, works with 650 library systems in the U.S. and Canada.

"So long as you get the books back to us, pay the overdue fines (and) pay the processing fee, it'll never show up on your credit report," he said.

After four months, Unique Management will list the overdue fines with credit agencies as an unpaid debt, adversely affecting personal credit scores.

Some library patrons said they didn't think the library system needs to be so heavy-handed about overdue books, while others said they understood the move.

"If they don't pay library fines, they probably won't pay anybody else either," Luther Brock said.

"(It makes sense), knowing how valuable the public library is and how expensive a book can get," Larry Williams said.

Manning said the library system would prefer not to use the collection agency, but books cost about $20 each.

"It's just the cost of having to replace the books if we eventually can't recover them," he said.